WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would amend the Constitution to require Congress to balance the budget each year, Republican Leader Eric Cantor said on Thursday.
The measure has little chance of becoming law, but it could give Republicans added leverage as they struggle with Democrats over a budget-cutting deal that would allow the country to continue borrowing money and avert a default on its debt.
Cantor walked away from the talks earlier in the day, saying negotiators were at an impasse over tax increases sought by Democrats.
The Treasury Department has warned that it could run out of money to pay the country’s bills if Congress does not increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2. That could push the country back into recession and rattle markets across the globe.
Some conservative Republicans say they won’t back a debt-ceiling increase unless Congress first approves the constitutional amendment. Cantor said he would schedule the vote for the week of July 25, shortly before the August 2 deadline.
Though the bill may pass the Republican-controlled House, it has little chance of winning a required two-thirds vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It also would need to win approval from 38 of the 50 state legislatures before taking effect. The last constitutional amendment, limiting congressional pay raises, was ratified in 1992.
Tax cuts, wars, and a deep recession have pushed annual budget deficits to their highest levels relative to the economy since World War Two. The deficit for this fiscal year, which ends September 30, is projected to hit $1.4 trillion.
Though a balanced budget amendment would keep the country’s debt in check, opponents say it would make the government unable to blunt the impact of economic downturns or react to emergencies.
In the late 1990s, the U.S. budget was balanced without any such constitutional amendment.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan